It was ten years ago that local filmmaker Danny Peterson brought to light the health effects of pelmenis — the Russian dumplings beloved by Juneau — by eating nothing else for a month in “Pel Meni: A 30 Day Addiction.”
Now Peterson, a recovering pelmeni addict, returns in the new film “Pels, Inc.” which seeks to uncover the seedy world of pelmeni dealers, addicts and the law enforcement officers fighting the war on this Schedule 1 drug.
Or, at least that’s the premise of his new parody, due to debut 9 p.m. on Aug. 19 and 20 at the Goldtown Nickelodeon.
Peterson made the original “Super Size Me” parody — he didn’t actually eat pelmenis for 30 days — with his friends for a high school journalism class and says it has brought him much more renown than its 3,000 views on YouTube would suggest.
“I would get recognized from it,” he said. “People would come up to me years later and they would say ‘I really liked that movie that you made.’”
One Hawaiian coming to the University of Alaska Southeast for college saw the movie when they typed “Juneau, Alaska” into the YouTube search — only to recognize Peterson and another actor in the dorms.
“I just loved stuff like that happening. And my friends always told me how much they liked it. So I really just wanted to chase that feeling,” Peterson said on why he decided to make a sequel ten years later.
He got the idea for the new parody format when a friend showed him the National Geographic show “Drugs, Inc.” about the war on drugs.
“I realized this is the perfect thing to parody,” Peterson said. “It goes undercover to the drug dealers and they’re telling how they make it and then they show police busts.”
Peterson started contacting friends who had been in the first movie and asking if they would like to revive their character in the sequel. April Henderson returns as the doctor. Glenn Ojard, who played an addict in the first movie, is now pelmeni-sober and Peterson’s sponsor. (Ojard is also a stencil artist who designed the poster for the film). Jeremiah Crockroft plays the unlikely pairing of FBI agent and drug dealer.
“I did that because he played two roles in the first movie too and so I just wanted to echo that same spirit,” Peterson said.
There are some new faces too. Andy Khmelev premieres as the story’s Russian antagonist.
“He just came up to me one day and he was like … ‘you got to put me in the pelmeni movie, you’ve got to put me in there.’ And he said, ‘… I’m going to be what the stereotype for Russian people is for Americans. I want to be like homophobic and constantly drinking vodka and really rude.’”
To which Peterson thought, “he’s so dang enthusiastic about it and he already has this fully developed character. I’ve got to put him in there.”
Peterson describes Khmelev as “perfect” in the film, praise he’s careful to stray away from when describing his own role as filmmaker.
“I don’t think anyone’s mind is going to get blown by this movie,” he said, saying it “looks very homemade” with “everything taped together” and a “shaky cam” “YouTube aesthetic.” Peterson made the props and costumes himself and filmed everything locally with a handycam.
In a first for him, one scene uses a greenscreen — he was able to rent out part of fellow local filmmaker Anton Doiron’s studio where Doiron was making his movie, “Hidden Spaceship.”
“That’s like the most high-tech professional looking cut in the whole movie,” Peterson said.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s objectively a quality movie, per se, but I think people will be entertained,” he adds. “I kind of made this movie because I’m interested in making movies but I don’t really know how to do it yet and I knew that (in) a movie like this is I can make mistakes and mistakes will only make the overall product funnier.”
He wrote an outline for the film too, but said when it came to actual dialogue, he would use costumes and props to endow his friends with their character and then say, “Now you have to get from point A to point B and how you guys do that is totally up to you.”
This follows Peterson’s description of “Pels, Inc.” as “a gift to my friends” where he lets them shine. It was their encouragement that started him on the path to filmmaking and them who kept him on it. They will also take their place in the spotlight with Peterson at a cast and crew Q & A at the end of the Aug. 20 screening.
“I don’t want to let them down,” said Peterson.
Additional credits: Theo Kennedy, Kyle Messing, Michael Christenson, Izzy Christenson,